Thursday, January 21, 2010

Into Thin Aire

Headache, shortness of breath, fatigue, I was familiar with these high altitude symptoms from my time in the Peruvian Andes though this time there was something new. Hands tingling, I clapped them together to try to get the circulation going and *OW* -jolts of pain shot through my palms and joints. I was a little worried, more than half of our group had already turned back, but our guide was yelling "animo! animo muchachos! vamos! (attitude guys! let's go!) encouraging us on to the summit.

Los Nevados National Park lies just a few Kms from Manizales, a town that sits at about 2,100 meters (7,000 ft). I had experienced some symptoms of the altitude when we arrived, but was able to sleep it off the next morning. Before we reached the park, we had a bit of a comical incident, as two guys from our hostel had accidentally hopped on our tour (in a minibus) while we had boarded the full size bus on a different tour (going to the same place). Both buses stopped for breakfast and we were forced to give up our comfy full size seats to squeeze in the two back seats of the minibus. This ended up being a blessing in disguise as our minibus was full of Colombians. We chatted it up with almost every single group on the bus, who were surprised to find a pair of gringos who could gift the gab. In particular, there was a mother traveling with her two daughters who had never seen a Yankee (in person), so they were a lot of fun.

As the hike up Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia's highest peak) began, the youngest daughter began getting really sick. Incredibly, the mother walked her two daughters down before double timing it to get back to the tail end of our group. Another feat of age in the face of adversity was a 50 year old father of two who scrambled past the guide (after his portly sons turned back) to be the first one of our group to summit. I guess it's all about physical and mental conditioning, which at least pushed me up to the top to ensure that people almost twice my age were not going to leave me in the dust. At 5,150 meters (17,000 ft), we were rewarded with a beautiful glacier that is unfortunately getting smaller every year, but a reminder of the limitless diversity that exists in all regions (and altitudes) in Colombia.


  1. Hola!

    Viejo amigo, te escribe el hermano de Ubeimar, mi nombre es Yodilber, no se si recuerdes a los dos hijos corpulentos del padre de 50 años lleno de fortaleza que rebaso al guía en el Volcán Nevado del Ruiz, por otra parte no sabia que tenias tu pagina, me parece muy agradable, veo que eres una persona de corazón extremo, cuidate y espero saber mas de tus aventuras, quiero que no olvides que tienes dos nuevos amigos hermanos en Colombia!!!

    Mi correo es:

  2. Yodliber, por supuesto te recuerdo pasando un buen dia con nuevos amigos de Tolima. Estoy haciendo planes para trabajo ahora, pero me gustaria ir por Tolima y parcer con tu y tu hermano. Cuidate, un abrazo amigo. -Miles